Mysterious lakes of the Badain Jaran desert

There are amazing natural phenomena in the Badain Jaran Desert, which is part of the Gobi desert region, which is colossal in the area – motionless as if dug in sand dunes that do not react to the wind and numerous lakes, despite the arid nature of the terrain.

Scientists have, of course, versions about the origin of reservoirs, but there is still no 100% certainty in the process of their formation. And these dunes “sing”. Singing is expressed in the fact that when the upper layer is blown away by the wind, an electrostatic charge is formed.

As a result, a thick low-frequency noise is created, resembling the hum of an airplane flying overhead.

The dunes of the Badain Jaran desert are the highest stationary dunes on Earth. The height of some of them reaches 500 m, although the average marks do not exceed 250 m. They are rooted to the spot, despite the dryness and the wind.

They are held in place by thawed groundwater coming to the surface between them. The upper “singing” part of the dunes may be partly mobile, but the middle and lower ones have remained in place for 20,000 years: the sand has been reduced to a stone state. Under the influence of erosion processes, cliffs, sinkholes, crevices, small grottoes were formed in them…

The Badain Jaran desert, characterized by an extremely arid climate with low rainfall, is unique for its lakes (there are about 140 of them). They are located between the dunes and even on their tops. In Mongolian, these reservoirs gave the desert its name, which means “mysterious lakes”.

Mysterious lakes of the Badain Jaran desert
Mysterious lakes of the Badain Jaran desert

Indeed, it is not very clear why these lakes exist. Presumably, they feed on groundwater, and aquifers are located under gravel deposits. The sources of groundwater can be precipitation and snowmelt in the mountains that are hundreds of kilometers away from the desert.

Groundwater is fresh, whereas most lakes are salty or brackish. This is due to the high evaporation rate. As a result of evaporation, a white salt crust has formed along the shore of some lakes, which gives the lakes a peculiar appearance. The water in some reservoirs is unusually bright in color due to the presence of algae colonies, microscopic crustaceans, and dissolved minerals in it.

Nevertheless, despite all the natural and climatic conditions, several lakes have fresh water in Badain Jaran. They are the stopping points of nomadic caravans driving camels, goats, and horses through the desert. Vegetation even breaks through around them, forming small green oases.

In recent decades, the process of reducing the water area of lakes has accelerated, and some have already disappeared. This is caused primarily by the lowering of aquifers as a result of the growth of settlements in nearby areas and, accordingly, an increase in population, pumping water for irrigation of fields.

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